Click beetles are an unusual insect species, capable of launching themselves from ground with more than eight times the acceleration of a space shuttle – and without using their legs.
Research by scientists at the University of Illinois has now revealed the beetles manage this with their curious click mechanism.
The mechanism is often used in the wild by the beetles to self-right if they have become trapped on their back.
The speed of their take-off has been estimated at 25 times the resting gravitational force of when they are on the surface of the Earth, compared to three times gravitational force experienced by a space shuttle.
Scientists have been investigating how the insects manage this launch in order to apply the science behind the mechanism to robotics.
Dr Aimy Wissa, an assistant professor of mechanical science and engineering at the University of Illinois led an interdisciplinary team in researching the beetles as part of a project to develop more agile robots.
Her team presented its ongoing work on the click beetles’ quick release mechanism at the 2019 annual meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
They showed synchrotron X-ray footage which revealed the internal latch mechanism that the beetle uses to launch itself into the air.
It was the first demonstration to the scientific community how the biological hinge morphology and mechanics enable this unique clicking mechanism.
The team has also built a prototype device featuring a hinge-like spring-loaded device, inspired by the click beetle, which they aim to install within an agile robot.
They hope the innovative engineering design could reveal remarkable mechanical qualities which could be of use to humans in a range of fields.